“How about Harry F’in Potter!”
That was how Zack Snyder put it a couple minutes after thousands of the Comic-Con faithful checked out the very first footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Saturday afternoon. Potter was the lead-in to Snyder’s hallucinogenic Sucker Punch screening (a whole lot more about that later), and followed in the wake of the Green Lantern buzz at the Warner Bros. panel, but the biggest burst of euphoria all day in Hall H (outside of the Avengers, of course) belonged to Potter. About two and a half minutes of footage, divided between two separate clips, that pointed to a bleak, teetering universe on the brink of spiraling down the black hole of evil.
Now even as a critic who has thought that the Potter films have varied wildly in vision and craftsmanship, I have to say that the footage I saw Saturday – less Wizard of Oz than something like The Proposition or Lord of the Rings or even No Country For Old Men – impressed me. Quite a bit. This is boy wizard as hunted outcast, and the world is crumbling down all around him.
As I scribbled notes in the dark – deafened by the screams of fawning fans on all sides – here were my favorite moments from the big-screen preview:
– One of the most startling images is also one of the first: Voldemort’s face, hovering only inches above a sleeping Dumbledore, as the narration describes how the dark master will destroy every single person who stands between him and Potter.
– Jump to a panicked Harry, Ron and Hermione, walking the streets of the city, terrified about finding a safe zone. Cut to the interior of a fast food joint, where the trio sits eating. A customer at the order counter whips around and tries to blast the kids; Hermione shoots back. Godfather-esque shootout. Nice.
– The nimble wand actions turn into machine gun fire. The three kids sprint through the forest, chased after by Voldemort’s army – a high-speed foot chase with wands flying, flinging explosions at every tree.
– A lightning-fast broom chase sequence heats up above the clouds, a dog fight of sorts set against what appears to be a brewing thunderstorm.
– In one spectacular, sprawling widescreen moment, the camera creeps up on the back on Voldemort’s head, his army sprawled out ahead of him. Ralph Fiennes slowly turns his head around to look back through us – to Potter himself, dirt sprawled on his face, arriving to confront his fate. A few seconds later, Potter’s dirtied face is followed by Hermione’s blood-stained hand.
– Near the end of the second clip, we see a moment from the iconic head-to-head Potter-Voldemort clash, wands trained on one another as the camera spins in from above, the light radiating from each wand colliding brilliantly midair.
This is epic, existential stuff people, and this movie is going to be huge. Introduced by young actor Tom Felton, he said Deathly Hallows was the sort of no-holds-barred climax that the whole series has been building towards. And given the bone chilling images, and the grim-grey palate of all the action I saw, it’s hard not to buy into the hype. The fun of school is behind Potter, the danger is very real, and Warner Bros. made it perfectly clear that they are here to play.
They intend to treat the closing chapters with the proper sense of awe and fear; Potter is going to end with a bang.
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